Fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as lots of water, can help relieve constipation during pregnancy. One type of fiber supplement, psyllium, is also safe and effective for use during pregnancy. In addition to nutrition and supplementation, the BabyCenter and the American Pregnancy Association websites note that high levels of iron -- which can sometimes be found in prenatal multivitamins -- can be a major cause of constipation during pregnancy. It is important, however, to speak with your health care provider before changing your prenatal multivitamin.
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Pregnancy and Constipation
Constipation during pregnancy can be a very common problem, notes BabyCenter. The hormone progesterone, which helps relax muscles, including those in the digestive tract, is present in higher amounts in pregnant women. This relaxing effect can slow the movement of food through the digestive tract. In addition, the uterus increases in size, putting pressure on the rectum. These combined effects can leave pregnant women looking for relief in any form possible.
A Bulking Fiber
Psyllium comes from a shrublike herb known as Plantago ovata. This soluble form of fiber absorbs water and forms a "bulking" mass once inside the digestive tract. The mass then helps move food through the digestive tract and out of the body. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, a number of well-designed studies have proved that psyllium can help relieve constipation. In addition, psyllium has other health benefits, including the ability to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk for heart disease.
Psyllium Is Considered Safe
In addition to drinking lots of fluids, consuming a diet rich in fiber, exercising regularly and taking over-the-counter supplements that specifically contain psyllium can help soften bowel movements and reduce constipation. The American Pregnancy Association has given psyllium a rating of "likely safe or possibly safe" for use during pregnancy. MedlinePlus has also rated psyllium as likely safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
Consult Your Doctor
While psyllium is generally considered safe for pregnant women, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that because supplements do not undergo the same scrutiny and evaluation process as prescription drugs, it is important to first consult with your doctor before using any herbal supplements when you are pregnant. You should not use mineral oils during pregnancy because they decrease nutrient absorption or laxatives because can stimulate uterine contractions and cause dehydration, according to the American Pregnancy Association.